Grant Gives Mary McClellan Hospital wider access to help

Staff Writer

Cambridge, New York.- Residents in Rensslaer, Washington, Saratoga, and Bennington, VT. counties may not have to drive hundreds of miles to visit a medical specailist anymore thanks to grant given to Mary McClellan Hospital Thursday from the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

During a conference call to more than 100 journalists across the country Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman announced $16 million in Federal Telecommunications loans and grants to improve education and health services for 2.5 million rural Americans.
The money is part of the distance learning initiative, a part of the Clinton Administration's School Modernization program to improve opportunities for rural children and health care facilities to be successful in a global economy.

The program brings video access to classrooms, emergency rooms, and conference areas where doctors and students can see, guide, and talk with each other.

"Once technical links are established, these program can do years and years of good." Glickman said. "This is a window where doctors can actually watch and guide physicians on what to do in trauma centers and other areas."

Joyce Davis, executive Director of Mary McClellan Hospital and Suzanne LeRoy, director of information systems, submitted the grant application to the USDA in June that addressed the rural nature of the area, wellness education and the need for a community based coalition to share resources.

With the grant, videoconference and telemedicine units will be placed in the main hospital, emergency department and the Hoosick Falls and Greenwich Family Health Centers.

With this equipment, patients will be able to talk directly with specialists in Albany or anywhere doctors have the same technology.

The equipment also allows Mary McClellan to send MRI's, EKG's, X-rays and other test results over the network at a high resolution for review.

Not only is this system more cost effective for medical personnel because it cuts down on transfers to other hospitals, it also saves patients money in transportation and future appointments.

"We will be able to dial Albany Medical Center and that physician can give orders and we all can make the decision if a patient needs to be transferred," Davis said. "The idea is giving patients access and they don't have to leave Washington County."

In addition to hospital use, Davis said the unit will also be used for distance learning.

She said the community partnership laboratory, the main hospital videoconferencing unit, will allow residents to use the equipment to attend college classes and conferences and for local business people people toto attend seminars. LeRoy also said Hoosick Falls Central School will be able to take advantage of the Internet access in the lab.

Although this si the first formal grant Mary McClellan has received for telemedicine, the hospital did go on-line in May with money from the Adirondack Area Network, Albany Medical Center, and Bell Atlantic.

The videoconferencing takes place over the Adirondack Area Network- a frame relay cloud that allows the user to transmit video, voice and data. The network was developed by David Bonner, the director of technology initiatives at Russell Sage College in Troy.

Both Davis and LeRoy said the future of medical technology depends on this project.

"Our model of care will include the transport of patient information-not patients," LeRoy said.

Glickman said that more than 380,000 students and 2.1 million patients of clinics and hospitals serving rural areas will benefit from the new technology under the distance learning and telemedicine program.